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Standing your ground: Examining the signaling effects of patent litigation in university technology licensing

Sam Horner, Nikolaos Papageorgiadis, Wolfgang Sofka and Sofia Angelidou

Research Policy, 2022, vol. 51, issue 10

Abstract: The licensing of university technologies to private firms has become an important part of the technology transfer mission of many universities. An inherent challenge for the technology licensing of universities is that potential licensees find it difficult to judge the early stage technologies and their ultimate commercial value. We reason that patent litigation against universities can have unintended signaling effects about the commercial value of its technologies and results in increased licensing income for the university. We ground this hypothesis in theory integrating signaling mechanisms from patent enforcement research into theoretical models explaining university technology licensing. Within our logic, the public and costly nature of patent litigation against universities creates strong, credible signals to potential licensees about the technologies of a university even if the signal was not created for that specific purpose. We isolate the signaling mechanism that is central to our theorizing by exploring two moderation factors that reveal additional information to potential licensees, i.e. the licensing track-record of the university and whether the lawsuit involves private firms as co-defendants. We test our theory with a unique dataset of 157 US universities and the 1408 patent infringement cases in which they were involved as defendants over the period 2005–2016. Results show that defending against claims of patent infringement enhances technology licensing revenues, particularly when universities are already adept at licensing technology and when they are co-defendants with private firms.

Keywords: Commercialization; University technology transfer; Licensing; Signaling theory; Patent litigation (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2022
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DOI: 10.1016/j.respol.2022.104598

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